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To separate fome of the most ufeful and the most beautiful parts from the great mass of human knowledge; to arrange them in such regular order, that they may be inspected with ease, and varied at pleasure; and to recommend them to the careful examination of young men who are studiously disposed, constitute the design of the Author of this work.
It is likewise his object to make the most useful topics of literature familiar and easy to general Readers, who have not had the advantage of a learned education. ..
The more he reflects upon the PRESENT STATE OF SOCIETY, the VARIOUS FACULTIES of the mind, and the GREAT ADVANTAGES which arise from acquiring an AMPLE FUND OF VALUABLE IDEAS, the more he is convinced of the utility of engaging in the pursuit of general knowledge, as far as may • VOL. I.
be consistent with profesional views, and particular fituations in life.
The custom has prevailed of late years, much more than it did formerly, of introducing young men at an early age into the mixed company of perfons older than themselves. As such is the reigning mode, they ought to be prepared in some degree at least to blend manly and serious topics with the fallies of light and gay conversation. And, in order to be qualified for the introduction of such subjects, it seems requisite to unite to the study of the learned languages, other attaine ments, which have a reference to the sciences, the works of nature, and the affairs of active life.
The improvements of the times have turned the. attention of the learned to new pursuits, and given their conduct a new direction. The Scholar, no longer confined within the walls of a College, as was formerly the case, now mixes in general fociety, and adapts his studies to an enlarged sphere of obfervation : he does not limit his reading to the works of the ancients, or to his professional researches alone; but shows his proficiency in the various parts of literature, which are interesting to the world at large.
The condition of social intercourse among those, who have had the advantages of a liberal education, is at present fo happily improved, that a free communication fubfifts between all intelligent
and well-inforined men. The Divine, the Phyfician, the Barrister, the Artist, and the Merchant, associate without reserve, and augment the pleasure they derive from conversation, in proportion as they obtain an insight into various pursuits and occupations. The more ideas they acquire in common, the fooner their prejudices are removed, a more perfect congeniality of opinion prevails, they rife higher in each other's estimation, and the pleasure of society is ripened into the sentiments of attachment and friendship. In such parties, where “the feast of reason and the flow of soul” prevail with the happiest effect, he who unites' to knowledge of the world the leading ideas and rational principles, which well-chosen books can supply, will render himself the most acceptable, and the most valuable companion.
Such are now the abundant productions of the press, that books written in our own language upon all subjects whatever are constantly published, and quickly circulate through the whole kingdom. This circumstance has léffened that wide and very evident distinction, which in former times prevailed between the learned and the unlearned claffes of the community. At present, they who have not enjoyed the benefit of a classical education may reap many of the fruits of learning without the labour of cultivation, as translations furnish them with conve* nient and easy expedients, which can in some measure, although an incomplete one, make amends for their ignorance of the original authors. And
upon all subjects of general Literature, Science, and Taste, in their actual and most highly improved state, they have the same means of information in their power with those who have been regularly educated in the Universities, and the public schools.
Thus favourable are the temper. and the circumstances of the Times to the diffusion of knowledge. And if the most mature and deliberate decisions of reflection and experience be required to give weight to the opinion, that comprehensive views of learning and science are calculated to produce the best effects upon the mind, reference can be made to both ancient and modern authorities to writers of no less eminence than Quintilian, Milton, and Locke. Their obfervations tend to prove, that close attention to a profefsional study, is an affair of the first importance, but that invariable and exclusive application to any one, pursuit is the certain mark of a contracted education. For hence the student is led to form a difike to occupations diffimilar to his own, and to entertain prejudices against those who exercise them. He is liable to view mankind and their employments through a wrong and a discoloured medium, and to make imperfect, if not falfe estiinates of their use and value. In order to prevent fuch contractedness of difpofition, and such errors of judgment, what method can be more efficacious, than to open some of the gates of general knowledge, and display its inoft beautiful prospects to his view?